Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Here On Purpose

Well, it's Tuesday again, and amid the flurry of "planned" activities that I simply "must" get done today, I have been keenly aware of (and at times almost overwhelmed by) the number of "unplanned" things likely awaiting me. In the life of a pastor these can range from funerals, to family crises, to people in need of a ride. On a more personal level, you just never know when the school is going to call, the doctor's appointment you've been waiting for is suddenly available, or your spouse just needs some time with you.

You might guess that one of the potential perils of being a pastor is the tendency to not always DO what you're so good at PREACHING about. For instance: Our church just finished a series entitled, "Here On Purpose." Now, I'll not take the time today to lay it all out for you here, but suffice it to say, it challenged us each to take a good hard look at Why we do What we do. The simple fact is that if our Why is wrong, it won't make a whole lot of difference What we do - we'll always end up a bit frustrated (and that could easily be an understatement).

For some things, the Why is very clear for me - other things, not so. Most of the time, ministry "stuff" falls into the former (I want people to find hope, peace and joy in Jesus Christ)and the balance of my life falls into the latter (because I have to do it). But recently, I was challenged as I read through the Gospel of John again (it's amazing what's in the Word of God if you just keep looking...try it!). In Chapter 4, verse 27, the disciples have returned from town to find that Jesus is engaged in a conversation that is definitely not run-of-the-mill. A woman (absolutely taboo in that culture)...a Samaritan woman (you could get excommunicated - or something like it - for this) is having the interaction of a lifetime with Jesus - seriously!

I think it's safe to say that the disciples were a bit shocked to see What Jesus was doing, but what jumped off the page to me is that none of them were shocked a bit at Why He was doing it (take a look for yourself). Believing and having discovered that all of the Bible is recorded for a reason, I found myself pondering for a moment its Why...and then it hit me. The disciples didn't ask Why because they knew Why...it was the same Why Jesus always had...to bring hope, peace and joy to her (the Why I only sometimes have).

Note: this was not a "ministry" setting - it was at a well in a foreign country during a conversation with someone most of us would normally avoid if given the chance. It wasn't in a church, or on a Sunday or during a class of some sort (though there was much being learned and taught). It was by all measures a rather ordinary day with an average person who was engaged in a routine and probably mundane task. But Jesus' Why was rock-solid...as always.

Now, if I'm going to call myself a "Christian" (which means "Christ-like one") I better pay attention to this. Because to be a "Christ-like one" I need to endeavor to have my Why straight in every situation, not just the "ministry" ones. That means during the planned events of my life and the unplanned. I need to take it up a level and better DO what I PREACH. Without question, I am "Here On Purpose" (so are you)...and that purpose is to be a "Christ-like one" all the time. What do you think? I'd love to hear your perspective and thoughts!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

About Front Porches...

You might have already wondered why on earth I chose the "The Front Porch" as the name for my blogging adventure. I mean, it has nothing at all to do with being a "Trekkin' Pastor," right? Well, let me throw a couple of thoughts at you and then you can tell me what you think:

I have been blessed with many people throughout my life who have impacted my thinking. One of them, Joe Myers, first introduced the idea of "The Front Porch" to me through his book, "The Search to Belong." In it, Joe proposes that one of the things that has almost completely disappeared from our culture as it has "matured" is the front porches off of our houses. While you'll still find a few, by and large, they have become non-existent. He further proposes that this is indicative of not only a shift in construction, but a shift in our relationships.

You see, historically, the front porch was the safe place to tackle nearly any topic with nearly anybody. More friendly than the street, yet not as intimate as the living room. Weather, politics, markets, schools and sports (to name a few) were all fair game on the front porch. This space also implied to those who interacted there a friendship of sorts, budding though it may be. It was a "safe space & place" - free from both danger and vulnerability. But alas, as we've already mentioned, they are for most people only a dim memory of another time, if that. Unfortunately, for many, the demise of the front porch has in turn led to a demise of any safe place to have those and other friendship-building conversations.

The challenge for me (and for any of you so inclined) is to carve out of our technology-laced world, virtual "front porches" of sorts...thus, places just like or similar to this blog. From here, there is an implied friendship (you've been invited in) yet not a great deal at risk, since we're still separated by our respective computer screens and relative anonymity. Nevertheless, the connection is (or at least can be) significant if we want it to be, for there are no topics off limits, no perspective rejected, and no experience minimized. Here, we are equals, each seeking to explore and learn from this God-given path we're on called "life."

And there it is...kind of snuck up on you, didn't it? What? The connection to the "Trekkin' Pastor." Don't tell me you missed it! You see, each time I venture into this nearly overwhelming world of blogging, I once again choose to explore (like the Starship Enterprise of old) places unknown, ideas undiscovered, and friendships unrealized. Who knows? If not already, we might just become friends and actually grow from one another. So don't be hesitant...come join me on the Front Porch. I can't wait to see what God has us to learn from one another!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

To Boldly Go...

Okay, it's no secret...I'm a "Trekkie" - with a name like "Kirk," what do you expect? To the uninitiated, this means that I am a follower of most any and everything having to do with "Star Trek" - original series, new series, spin-offs, movies...makes no difference to me. While us "Trekkies" take our knocks (especially as pastors), there's no question that "Star Trek" has pushed the limits in our thinking, technology and our relationships with others.

While I've always dreamed of being able to embrace a life-challenge championing the Star Trek motto, "To boldly go where no one has gone before," realistically, there are very few (if any) things that haven't already been tried by someone. That being the case, it would be pretty foolish of me to undertake any endeavor without looking to see what can be learned from others that have "boldly gone where I've never gone before." To that end, I did quite a bit of looking around before deciding to venture into the unknown world (to me) of blogging. We'll see how the journey goes.

So, one of the best questions (seems to me) is: Who am I going to learn from? There's no end to the number of "How To" books on the market, so where do we start? It's overwhelming! Now, if only there were a book from which the "How To" books drew from...wouldn't that be nice? Well, I believe that there is, and it comes in the form of a letter written by someone with incalculable amounts of experience and millions of readers - the kind of person I want and need to be in touch with.

This source? None other than the Holy Bible. Now, I can sense barriers going up right away with some of you; believe me, I've heard ALL the excuses. "I can't understand it" "It's so out of date" "It's just a bunch of myths" "It's so irrelevant" are among the most common. But I have one question for you: Do you know this from personal experience or because someone else told you so? The point being, if you have never really tried the Bible, how can you be so sure that it's not for you?

I challenge you to the following: Get yourself a good, modern translation (not a paraphrase). The New Living Translation is good, as is the New International Version, among a few others. Next, commit yourself to reading just 5 minutes a day. Start with the Gospels (you know, Matthew, Mark, Luke & John - the good old boys). Each time before you read, find a quiet place free from distractions and simply say as little boy Samuel did in the Old Testament, "Speak, Lord, for I am listening" (Don't worry, He'll do this part if you sincerely ask). Make sure you have a notebook or pad of paper handy. As soon as something jumps out at you, write it down, thank God for it and try to apply it to your day. I think you'll be amazed at how often what you read will remind you of something you've either gone through or are going through.

But be prepared, for in all likelihood, God will begin to take you where you've never been before! Where's that? Exactly where you need to be; with growing purpose and direction in every day. I'd love to hear from you, and you don't have to go to the Alpha Quadrant to find me; just post your thoughts and let me know what's going on in your universe.